Good Role Model or Horrid Example?

One of the reasons I read paranormal historical romance is to immerse myself in a supernatural love story set in a fascinating time period. I learn more about the time and the people, while being swept away in the story with larger than life characters. I was mesmerized by the story of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, two heroic Biblical figures who, many say, had supernatural powers. I wondered how this three thousand year old state affair between two super powers became embedded in our collective consciousness. I also wondered about the impact of this epic romance on our lives today, who the descendants of these royal super heroes might be, where they lived, and what they might be doing now.

In my research, I discovered that despite the differences between and among cultures, four major religions, Judaism, Christianity, Ethiopian Coptic Christianity, and Islam, tell, retell and revere the story of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon. The Hebrew Bible, Old Testament in the Christian Bible, contains the story in very short form, but repeats it in two places, in 1 Kings 10:1 through 10:13 and in in 2 Chronicles, 9:1 through 9:12, as if one telling of the event was not enough. The repetition of the same tale in two places was a way to ensure the story would be found, told and retold, even if the Books of the Bible were somehow separated from one another.

As the only foreign Queen mentioned in the Bible who appears to be considered an equal to King Solomon, this mystery woman has been claimed by no less than three countries: Arabia and Yemen, where she is call Bilqis, Balqis or Balkis, and Ethiopia, where she is known as Makeda. Her role in these stories has been interpreted by many scholars in multiple ways. The Queen of Sheba has been seen as a symbol of trade, as an example of nations converted to monotheism in polytheist world, as a warning against foreign women and their wiles, and, finally, as a romance between a powerful king and an equally powerful queen.

Many scholars who interpret the Queen of Sheba as a symbol of trade, point to the significant trade routes that ran through regions under the control of Israel. All trade routes had to be protected from bandits, or the products would never reach the marketplace. Frankincense was so valuable that men who worked in the factories were required to strip and be searched before they left for the day to ensure they took none of the product home. This lightweight incense was prized all over the world and used in religious rituals throughout the Middle Eastern region, especially at funerals. The wealthier the individual, the more frankincense was used. Israel’s territory lay between the region of production of frankincense and many destination ports. Without the protection of the King of Israel, other countries would not be able to thrive and survive. Was the Queen of Sheba merely a symbol of trade and the rest of the world showing its submission to the great and wise King Solomon?

Scholars who interpreted this story as a way of showing King Solomon’s (and Israel’s) favor in the eyes of his Lord, Yahweh, and to underscore the significance of the need for monotheism in a world of multiple gods, point to archaeological evidence of multiple gods and goddesses still present in the time of King David and King Solomon. Archaeologists have found evidence that Asherah, the female goddess, was worshipped in the first and second temples of Jerusalem, alongside Yahweh. Prophets and priests opposed to polytheism may have created the story of the Queen of Sheba’s visit and her conversion to monotheism as an example of what other nations should do.  Was the Queen of Sheba merely a prop to provide a good role model for other nations?

Some stories about the Queen of Sheba have indicated her origins were exotic and supernatural, with a mother who was a jinniyah, or genie. Other, darker stories demonize the Queen of Sheba and make her synonymous with Lilith, Adam’s first wife, who left him to become a soul-sucking demon and baby killer. In early times, the war over which god would prevail was a very real one, and priests and priestesses of gods opposing Yahweh were not well tolerated, even killed, on the road to monotheism. Foreign women became synonymous with foreign gods and evil ways. Solomon’s tolerance of his multiple wives’ religions was seen as a character flaw by the Yahwists. Were these stories about the Queen of Sheba created to serve as a horrid example of foreign customs?

Finally, the romance between two great and powerful heads of state is irresistible; many scholars offer strong support of a real love story. One of the strongest pieces of evidence is the use of the Hebrew word in the phrase “she came to him.” There are many different words the scribe could have used, however, the one selected has a sexual meaning, used only in the Hebrew Bible in sexual situations. The romantic description of the meeting and their interactions include such phrases as “she communed with him of all that was in her heart,” “she was left breathless,” and “king Solomon gave unto the queen of Sheba all her desire, whatsoever she asked, beside that which Solomon gave her of his royal bounty” makes the reader wonder what he gave her, since she was wealthy, too. In fact, the largesse of her gifts of state is over the top, even for a visiting dignitary. Was it, in fact, a wedding dowry? If so, why did she leave and return to her own country with her servants? What happened? Was this a love lost?

According to the Kebra Negast, the constitution and Holy Book of Ethiopia, Makeda, the Queen of Sheba from that nation, returned to her country with her servants and gifts only King Solomon could give to her:  a signet ring, a child, and a Solomonic dynasty that endured to the last Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selassie I. For the purposes of KISS OF THE VIRGIN QUEEN, it is this story that I followed and brought to the twenty-first century via the African Diaspora.

Come with me on this epic paranormal journey into the past and present. Here’s an excerpt from my sequel to KISS OF THE SILVER WOLF, my work in progress, KISS OF THE VIRGIN QUEEN.

Prologue

MAKEDA

AKSUM, ETHIOPIA

975 B.C.E.

Makeda clambered up the steep outcropping of rocks in pursuit of a white snake. She’d seen the creature sunning itself on a large boulder, its normally sleek shape enlarged in the center with a bulge the size of a rat, and wanted him. After a big meal, the slithering would stop and he’d be easy to catch. As soon as she caught the snake, she’d drag him down the rugged slope, and shove him in Tamrin’s face.

Stupid boy. How dare he say girls didn’t know how to catch snakes with a tone used for speaking to babies? Even though he was twelve, two years older than her, didn’t she throw a spear farther, ride her horse harder, and catch more pheasants than he did? Fish practically threw themselves on her carved bone hooks. Without a doubt, Makeda ran faster, climbed higher, fished harder and hunted better than all the other children in Aksum and many of the adults.     Hadn’t she brought down a lioness when the predator attacked a woman in Aksum? Everyone else screamed and fled, the cowards. She, a mere girl, had stood her ground and speared the big cat, saving the mother and her unborn child. Her actions had shown the men and boys she was a warrior, not just the king’s daughter.

The only animals she didn’t hunt were the red, long-legged wolves. When she was five, the first time she rode out to hunt antelope with her father and spotted the creatures, a wolf surrounded by a litter of pups locked eyes with Makeda. Frozen in time, it seemed as if the female whispered to her, “Go away. Leave me to raise my babies. Spare me and when your time comes, we will do the same for you and yours.”  At last, she pulled away from the creature’s penetrating gaze and caught her father watching her, his dark brown forehead creased in a worried expression.

“Why do you look at me in that way, Baba? Is something wrong?”

He reached over and felt Makeda’s brow. “Are you not well, my daughter?”

She shook her head. “The wolf snared me with her eyes and spoke to me. Asked for mercy.”

Her father’s eyes grew as large as eggs, and he held up the palm of his right hand. “Stop. Say nothing more of this.”

“Baba, what’s wrong?” She had never seen her father afraid of anyone or anything. The supreme ruler feared nothing. Until today.

His lips thinned into a knife’s edge. “Tell no one. Do you hear me?”

Baba had never spoken to her in such a harsh tone before. Tears rose in her eyes. She dared not speak for fear of choking on her words. Makeda nodded. And they never mentioned the incident again. Now, despite the heat baking the stones beneath her feet, she shuddered at the memory. Stop thinking about the wolves. Keep going. A few more boulders to climb and she’d have the snake in her hand.

A sharp rock pricked her palm and a trickle of blood ran down her arm. Scraped, bruised, and covered in tiny cuts, her hands seldom scarred. Her father told Makeda her mother had healed the same way and her extra toe on each foot gave her special powers. “My heart, you are my little goat.”

Tamrin shouted at her from below. The wind snatched his voice and carried it into the clouds. She glanced over her shoulder and the sight took her breath away. A shrub-strewn carpet of green grass broken up with craggy hills, a wandering river, and scrubby bushes lay beneath her. This is why the Sun God rose each morning. To admire his handiwork.

Nay! Come!” Tamrin’s shout carried to her in a gust of wind. “Soon it will be sundown.” She knew the rest. He ended everything with, “Your father will kill me and my family if I don’t bring you back safely.”

Where was all his boasting and blustering when it came to her father? Vanished like a rat in hole. She dismissed his warning with a shake of her head, pulled herself over a ledge and headed upward, closer to the sun and the snake. Lazy beast. Sitting right in front of a large cleft, the snake hissed, almost as if to say, “Come get me.”

She stood on the boulder. Two more steps and she’d pounce. One, two–just as he was within her reach he turned his head, flicked his tongue, and slipped into the cave. She followed him into the darkness, deep into the grotto, her trusty feet feeling the way. Her eyes adjusted to the gloom. Aha! Right there on a big boulder. One more step and–

A soundless explosion of light dazzled Makeda. Blinded by its brilliance, she stumbled back, her sure feet slipping, unsteady. Cool and slick, the wet rock walls did little to help her stay balanced. She blinked, shook her head, and gasped. Where the snake had been, now sat a giant. Even sitting down, the ferhenjee, this non-black stranger with skin the color of a young curly horned antelope, was twice her father’s size.

Mouth dry, heart hammering in her throat, her vision adjusted to the light. The ferhenjee had a man’s body with sparks circling his head like embers from a blazing fire. A nose of an eagle, large and strong, dominated his profile. He looked at her with eyes the same color of the sky in the morning. His stare pinned her to the rock floor. Behind him wings, too many to count, fluttered and stirred up a breeze. Her brow, once hot and sweaty, cooled.

Hands clenched into fists, her mind alternated between wanting to fight the creature, run away, or freeze in his sky colored stare. Immobility won. At last, it hit her. He must be the Sun God, angry with her for climbing this high. “I only wanted to catch the snake.”

The giant threw his head back and roared.

Released from his stare, Makeda fell to her knees and bowed her head. “Please don’t kill me, Sun God. I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to anger you.”

“I’m not angry, child. I’m laughing.” He chuckled. “Don’t call me Sun God. It offends my King.”

She jerked her head up. The ferhenjee was smiling. “Who are you? Are you from the stars? Who is your king? How did you get here?” She took a deep breath, prepared to ask more questions.

“Stop.” His voice rumbled in her chest. A frown furrowed his brow.

She bowed her head again. Maybe she should flatten herself on the floor of the cave to please him.

“Don’t lie on the ground, Makeda.”

Tremors shook her body and her teeth rattled. Just like she had heard the wolf’s thoughts, he knew hers.

He sighed and a blast of air blew past her. “I am Metatron, servant of the greatest of all  gods, Yahweh. I bring a message for you.”

She peeked up through strands of curly black hair. “Me? Why me?”

“You have a grand destiny. Your son will rule a great kingdom.”

Despite her fear, the notion of being a mother tickled her gut and tore huge gulps of laughter out of her throat. He had to be blind. She wasn’t even a woman yet.

The creature stared at her. “You dare to laugh?”

The girl struggled to regain her self-control. “I’m never going to marry. I will never have children–”

The giant creature stood and his head touched the top of the cave. Her voice caught in her throat. He looked like her father had the day she heard the wolf speak, only angrier.

“Hear me, Makeda. You will become the mother of a nation of kings. Go home and prepare yourself. Learn everything you can about love, honor, and becoming a wise and just ruler, so you can teach your son and his son.”

“I’m sorry, whoever you are. I cannot rule my father’s kingdom unless I am a virgin. It is forbidden for me to marry.”

She was terrified of this messenger and his god, but rules were rules. Her own mother had disappeared when she was a baby. Wasn’t that enough evidence that the punishment for non-virgin queens was banishment?

“I must be a virgin queen. I was born to rule. It is my destiny.”

Sparks flew off him and the room blazed with the light of day. He grew larger and larger, filling up the space with his glow. One of his wings brushed her cheek, soft as the fuzz of a baby bird.

“You are young and foolish. You will grown and learn. Above all else, you must seek wisdom. That is your destiny.”

 

PS: If you are interested in reading more about the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, here are some books for you.

Budge, W. (Translator). (2007). The Kebra Nagast (The Glory of Kings). Lexington, KY: Silk Pagoda.

Clapp, N. (2001). Sheba: Through the Desert in Search of the Legendary Queen. New York, NY: First Mariner Books.

Coogan, M.D., Brettler, M.Z., Newsom, C.A.,  & Perkins, P. (Eds.). (2001). 1 Kings 10:1-13 in The New Oxford Annotated Bible. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, p. 508-509.

Coogan, M.D., Brettler, M.Z., Newsom, C.A.,  & Perkins, P. (Eds.). (2001). 2 Chronicles 9:1-12 in The New Oxford Annotated Bible. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, p. 630-631.

Fraser, A. (2004). The Warrior Queens. New York, NY: Anchor Books.

Grossfeld, B. (1991). The Two Targums of Esther. Translated with Apparatus and Notes. The Aramaic Bible, Vol. 18. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press.

Razwy, S.A.A. (Ed.) & Ali, A. Y. (Translator).  (2009). The Qur’an Translation. Elmhurst, NY: Tahrike Tarsile.

 

Book Review: The Passion of Mary Magdalen by Elizabeth Cunningham

If you’ve been reading my posts here on Sexy Romance Stories, you know I have an insatiable curiosity about all things Biblical. So when a dear friend recommended THE PASSION OF MARY MAGDALEN by Elizabeth Cunningham, I promptly bought it in February, 2011, looked at the beautiful cover of this 620 page book and told myself to get back to work. Now I’m kicking myself for waiting so long to read it.  Then again, perhaps things really do happen for a reason. But I digress.

WARNING: If you are offended by feminist interpretations of the Bible, do not read on.

Elizabeth Cunningham, descendant of nine (9) generations of Episcopal priests, knows whereof she speaks in all things biblical. My impression of this author is that she literally ate, drank, slept and breathed Bible stories from birth—no from conception. And, rather than hew to the party line, so to speak, she listened for the voice of the women in these tales and found them missing. In THE PASSION OF MARY MAGDALEN, Ms. Cunningham gave Mary Magdalen and the other two Marys of the New Testament, not only voices, but brains, bodies, spirituality and backstories.

This is the second in the Maeve Chronicles, but you do not have to read the books in order. The author provides an excellent summary of the first book in a non-intrusive manner. She gives the reader enough information to understand where we are as the story begins and weaves in more later. I never felt lost reading the story. I felt as if I was firmly anchored in Mary’s point of view throughout the book, in large part because of the author’s skillful use of the first person.

We know from the New Testament that Mary Magdalen was a prostitute; what we don’t know is where she came from, why she was in that occupation, and what her relationship was to Yeshua, aka Jesus. The first half of this book tells us about Mary’s life as a prostitute and takes place in Rome. Born a Celt named Maeve, she escaped certain death in her home country, only to be captured by a tribe intent on using her as a breeding vessel. She escapes again, only to be drugged by the sea captain. The book opens with her in an open air market in Rome where her captor is extolling her wares. Stripped, poked and prodded in the public setting, she maintains her Celtic backbone and lives up to her bright red hair by cursing the man in three different languages. Amused by her antics and intrigued by her body and brain, the brothel owner and madam knows a good value when she sees one and buys Maeve.

Maeve becomes a craftsman at her trade, taking pride in her work as a whore. Sought after by generals, senators and wealthy land holders, she becomes a favorite of the patrons and the other women in the brothel. The only problem is she isn’t just a worker bee; she’s also a priestess of Isis and strange, supernatural things happen around her at inexplicable times. It is a bawdy, fun, gripping read and the details of daily life in 1st Century Rome are seamlessly woven in without becoming a history lecture. I felt as if I was there at the feasts and in the Temple of Isis. Throughout it all, Maeve never forgets the young man she fell in love with in her home country: Esus.

The second half of the book takes place in Jerusalem, Israel, where Maeve has taken up residence after a series of misadventures in Rome and being bought, sold and finally released into the wild. Setting up a Temple of Isis in a Jewish country occupied by Romans is not an easy affair. While she has financial backing from Joseph of Arimathea, support from some of her fellow whores from the Roman brothel, and a flair for finding hidden sacred springs, she still has to stay under the radar of the religious and Roman dictators. True to her profession and her calling, her temple is offers healing and sexual services, for men and barren women. Between cleaning up an old estate and vineyards, she visits the Temple searching for any sign, any word of Esus. Here the author excels in providing the reader with insights into the people of the day, including the larger than life figures in the New Testament. She also gives us a window into the era’s religious practices, including animal sacrifices, and gives us an idea of how power can corrupt all, even those who claim to act on behalf of Yahweh. Everyone has an agenda in Jerusalem, and the only ones in charge with swords and spears are the Romans.

I won’t spoil the story for you, let me just say that if you want to see, smell, taste, hear and touch that era from the eyes of a very important woman in our collective history, I highly recommend this book.

Royal Watching with Sharon Buchbinder

He was the reluctant heir to the throne of a desert kingdom.

She was a virgin queen living far away in the south.

A little bird told him of her beauty–he had to meet her.

A traveling merchant told her of his wisdom–she had to meet him.

Something greater than either of them conspired to bring them together. When they met, could there be any doubt they were meant for each other? But would duty to country prevail over their pledge to one another? Only time and love would tell.

Sound like the stuff of romance novels? Yes, this was a romance writ large because it was an affair of state and royalty. And these characters appear in no less than four holy books: the Ta Nakh, the Koran, the King James Bible and the Kebra Nagast (The Glory of Kings).

In Biblical times, he who could kill or overcome enemy tribes became king. With lots of children and careful planning, his heirs would succeed him. But not all countries had the same traditions. In some parts of the world, women ruled by might or by right to the throne. For the royals, marrying and having children was an affair of state. Right up until recent times, it was not uncommon for the royalty of different lands to marry for the mutual benefit of their countries. In our modern era, heads of state and heirs to thrones have been granted the freedom to marry whom they choose–within reason.

Millennia before Prince William and Kate Middleton’s time on the world stage, people have been royal watchers. Some watched to see if they were in favor and able to gain, others to see if they were out of favor and about to lose–their heads! Still others watched because it was simply the best show in town.  So when the royalty of Israel met the royalty of Sheba, all eyes were upon them. Based on the appearance of these two royals in no less than four world religions, no one could resist watching the wise King Solomon and the beautiful Queen Makeda.

In researching my work-in-progress, Kiss of the Virgin Queen, I, too, have become a royal watcher–from a distance of over three thousand years.  My historical voyeurism has taken me down a circuitous path across time and cultures to their mythic romance.  Destinies entwined, some would say the Makeda/Solomon romance was beshert.

With construction on the first Temple well underway by the time King Solomon greeted the extravagantly generous Queen of Sheba,* he already had seven hundred (700) wives and three hundred (300) concubines. By marrying princesses of rival kingdoms, he had built an extraordinary alliance and ensured the safety of the trading routes. Curious about the man behind the legend, Queen Makeda traveled fifteen hundred (1500!) miles from Ethiopia to meet the wisest man on earth–and to ask him “hard questions.” When they met, the Queen was “left breathless by Solomon’s magnificence” (Coogan, Brettler, Newsom, & Perkins, 2001, pp. 508). The attraction was mutual–but there was nothing they could do about it. Or was there? The eyes of the world were upon them.

What do you think happened between King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba?

While you’re thinking about a response and waiting for me to finish this epic romance, here’s an excerpt from KISS OF THE SILVER WOLF in KILLER KISSES

Prologue: The Hunt

He leaned down on his front paws, relieved the kinks in his back, and shook out his thick coat. Beneath the cold air, a hint of spring tantalized his senses. Under the moist leaves, between the tree roots, alongside the chortling streams, the sleeping earth mother stretched her legs and wiggled her toes too. He gazed at the pearl white moon as she rose on the horizon, full and iridescent in the February sky. Only a few days left to enjoy this part of his life.

Time for a run. He began to trot, then broke into a long easy gait, loping around the perimeter of his territory, through trees and winter-bare brush. He picked his way across a snow-melt-swollen stream, past massive rock formations and darkened houses, enjoying the feel of his muscles as they kept pace with his pounding heart. This was what it felt like to be alive.

Too soon he reached the asphalt and the end of his fun. Panting, he turned away from the road and walked at a slow easy pace, back to the pack’s meeting place. Time to speak to the Old One about the future. Midnight runs no longer suppressed his primal feelings, the visceral urge he felt when the full moon rose.

Each month, the call to mate was stronger—irresistible as the pull of the moon on the oceans—and on him. The females in the pack were off limits, bonded forever to their soul mates. Besides, their scents didn’t arouse him. No, the one he wanted was far away, almost an unattainable being. The moment he saw her smoky-eyed image, he knew she was The One. Often when he was alone at night, he gave into his dark urges and fantasized about holding her and making her his own. But in the morning, he was still alone, his dream-mate a dust mote on a sunbeam. He shook his head to clear his thoughts and stepped into the apple orchard.

Half-hidden in shadows beneath the moonlight dappled trees, the Old One nodded his head, a knowing glint in his bright orange eyes. The younger male trotted over to him and bowed his head. Half a dozen adolescents tumbled over and around the Old One, bit his gray ears, and nipped his toes. When the smaller ones looked up and saw the younger male, they yipped, hobbled over to him, and threaded between his legs. The Old One’s mouth opened in a grin, and his tongue lolled.

The younger male fell to the ground, rolled on his back, and the six pups leaped on his belly. He chuffed and pawed at them, cuffing each one lightly. He enjoyed the role of honorary Uncle, but what he really wanted was his own pups to play with. After a few minutes, he gave a great sigh and flipped onto his belly. The little ones seemed to sense his change in mood and hobbled off to play with sticks.

He locked gazes with the Old One. When will I have my own mate? It’s not enough for me to watch the little ones play.

The Old One winked and nodded. My job is to preserve the pack, to keep our people alive. I have chosen your mate. You know who she is. You have my oath.

The younger male shook his head. You didn’t answer my question. When? When do I get my mate and become Pack Leader?

The Old One leaped to his feet, glared at the younger one, and growled a deep throaty roar that belied his age. You dare to question me? Me? The one who saved you? Is that how you show your gratitude?

The younger male put his ears down and lowered his head, his nose touching the ground. Forgive me. I’m—I’m so lonely. My heart aches for a loving mate and my own pups. Every moon the urge gets stronger, the hunger greater.

The Old One came closer, grabbed the back of the younger male’s neck with his teeth. The large signet ring on his iron necklace clanked as he gave the upstart a small shake. The time is coming near. I promise. You will—

The unmistakable crack of a rifle sounded in the distance.

The Old One’s mate barked out orders to the other females. Grab the pups. Get them home. Hurry, hurry.

The younger male found a straggler hobbling along as fast as his legs permitted. He lifted him by the scruff of the neck. C’mon, little one. I’ve got you. You’re safe now.

A second shot rang out closer by.

The little one whimpered and shuddered in his grip. Please don’t let the hunters kill me, Uncle Zack. Please?

****

“I told you to hold your fire!” Special Agent Eliana Solomon stood by the abandoned mine and drummed her fingers on the butt of her Sig Sauer.

“Sorry, SirMa’am…I thought I saw a wolf in my night scope.” The newbie looked downward as she glared at him.

“This isn’t a hunting trip with your buddies. It’s an active operation and I’m in command. One more shot and I’m taking your rifle away from you. Got it?”

He gulped, clutched his weapon, and nodded. “Yes, Ma’am.”

She had asked for experienced soldiers; instead they sent a bunch of green boys. She understood the Middle East took precedence, but didn’t the Army get the concept of domestic terrorists?

The mission of Project Aladdin was to find jinn, the portals where they came through from a parallel dimension and to shut the gateways down. Contrary to popular TV images of a pretty girl in a bottle, the jinn, or genies, were not nice. Powerful shape shifters, they hated humans and wanted to take over the world. If a terrorist ever found a way to conjure and command even one jinni, the world would never know what hit it.

Despite her obsession and round the clock investigations, she’d been unable to make any progress. With her evaluation coming at the end of the month, she had to find something. Otherwise, she’d be exiled to a desk and spend the rest of her professional life analyzing emails. She shuddered at the thought of death by tedium and twisted the heavy signet ring on her left hand.

Strange energy signatures had been seen on satellite images of this area and identified as the type associated with jinn. The abandoned mine was the logical place for a portalbut so far the scout they’d lowered down into the shaft hadn’t reported anything. She glanced at her watch. He’d been silent for twenty minutes. He was supposed to be reporting in on the quarter hour.

Mouth dry, she keyed her radio. “What’s going on down there?”

Static.

“Hello. Can you read me?”

A long burst of static was followed by garbled voices. A man screamed.

She wheeled on the pale-faced young corporal holding a rope. “Get him out of there!”

He leaned back and grunted, red-faced with exertion. “Something’s wrong, Ma’am!”

She raced behind him, screaming at the stricken-looking young men huddling together. “Get over here. Help us get him out.”

Three of them put their backs into the effort, finally bringing the scout up into view. Limp-limbed, the young man’s head lolled back, his camouflage uniform covered in blood. They hauled him onto the ground and rolled him over.

A soldier held a flashlight as Eliana pulled out a handkerchief and wiped his face off. Something was on his forehead. She dabbed at it and stopped. The words burned into the man’s forehead told her all she needed to know. She stood on shaky legs.

Bug eyed, the corporal turned to her. “What is it? What’s it mean?”

She chose her words with care. “It’s Hebrew. It says: GET OUT.”

She flexed her fist and rubbed the heavy signet ring inscribed with pentacles and letters from an ancient language. She was going to need help from a source that some people said didn’t even exist.

 

PS: If you are interested in reading more the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, here are some books for you.

Budge, W. (Translator). (2007). The Kebra Nagast (The Glory of Kings). Lexington, KY: Silk Pagoda.

Clapp, N. (2001). Sheba: Through the Desert in Search of the Legendary Queen. New York, NY: First Mariner Books.

Coogan, M.D., Brettler, M.Z., Newsom, C.A.,  & Perkins, P. (Eds.). (2001). Kings 10:1-13 in The New Oxford Annotated Bible. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, p. 508-509.

Fraser, A. (2004). The Warrior Queens. New York, NY: Anchor Books.

Razwy, S.A.A. (Ed.) & Ali, A. Y. (Translator).  (2009). The Qur’an Translation. Elmhurst, NY: Tahrike Tarsile.